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January 2010

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GRIEVING NOTES

By Al Vigil 

We have learned to live the life we have,  and not the life we don't.

The choice our middle daughter Mia, made to stop her life at the age of eighteen, affected us deeply.  After that January day, twenty-six years ago, our life as we knew it was forever changed.

Life in it's  'natural state' has moved on in our family.  Our two other daughters have married, and Linda and I now have five grandchildren. We have had some great celebrations, happy times and joyful times  . . . and sad, sorrowful times, too.  We have lost some good friends and some family to death.  Linda's sister Patricia Ann,  died two years ago and my oldest brother Art,  passed away four months ago.

We have retired and moved to a new city.  We have brought 'new' friends into the circle of our on-going lives.  We have a wonderful church home.  We still work with "Survivors of Suicide" groups.  Several other 'life' support groups have also become a valuable part of our lives.   We travel and we stay very active.  We strive, we focus, and we work —on staying healthy and happy.

Did you notice I used the word  'work' ?

We have learned some valuable lessons  . . . happiness can be a choice.  Positiveness can be a behavior.  Life can still be full and productive.  We still find beauty in flowers and we enjoy our music.  We read a lot and we see all the movies at the theaters.

We have long passed the days of the early mourning days for our Mia —but we will always grieve the loss of her life.  We cherish the photographs we have of her.  We love the 'Mia Memory Bear' that her sister Mindy, had made for us.  The exact sound of Mia's  soft and gentle voice has slowly faded from my memory.

However,  I can still hear Mia utter the word  "trick"  and we will always remember her shy smile, when she thought that she had fooled all of us with some silly twist of her usually happy character.

Life after the death of our loved one didn't just happen to us  . . . or to you.  But, I do believe that most of the happy choices of our life now, can also happen to you, too.

With our Sharing and Healing,  we have learned to live the life we have,  and not the life we don't.





In Loving Memory of

pig

                             ~  Allison Janelle Carr  ~

                                     ( 03/21/95 - 08/01/08 )


                               Allison's greatest gift to me was one
Of healing.

In losing so much when I lost her,      
I faced my own worst fears and
Greatest demon.

It was loss that I feared most all my life.

And, that ~ Allison made me face with the kind of courage she
Always expected me to have.

She gave me no choice but to live with her decision,
The risk she took, the choice she made, and to accept it.

I still fight it sometimes, and on bad days, I whimper to myself that
I can't do this.

But, I can; and I have to, just as she did.

I cannot escape the pain or the loss, or the memories,
Or the fact that I miss her so unbearably at times.

I must learn to live with it,
And, make my life not only good, but whole again.

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *
Written By Janet Carr (  Allison's Mom  )



        NURTURE YOURSELF   . . . . . . .    By Alan Wolfelt, Ph.D. 

   "There is nothing in nature that can't be taken as a sign of both

                   mortality and invigoration."  ...Gretel EhrlichNurture_Logo

     I remind you that the word  "bereaved,"  which to our modern-day ears can sound like an old-fashioned term that only a funeral director might use, means "to be torn apart" and "to have special needs." So despite its obsolescence, the word is still accurate and useful.

     Perhaps your most important "special need" right now is to be compassionate with yourself. In fact, the word "compassion" means "with passion." Caring for and about yourself with passion is self-compassion.

     This article is a gentle reminder to be kind to yourself as you journey through the wilderness of your grief. If you were embarking on a hike of many days through rugged mountains of Colorado, would you dress scantily, carry little water, and push yourself until you dropped? Of course not. You would prepare carefully and proceed cautiously. You would take care of yourself because if you didn't, you could die. The consequences of not taking care of yourself in grief can be equally devastating.

     Over many years of walking with people in grief, I have discovered that most of us are hard on ourselves when we are in mourning. We judge ourselves and we shame ourselves and we take care of ourselves last. But good self-care is essential to your survival. To practice good self-care doesn't mean you are feeling sorry for yourself, or being self-indulgent; rather, it means you are creating conditions that allow you to integrate the death of someone loved into your heart and soul.

     I believe that in nurturing ourselves, in allowing ourselves the time and loving attention we need to journey safely and deeply through grief, we find meaning in our continued living. We have all heard the scripture, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." To this I might add, "Blessed are those who learn self-compassion during times of grief, for they shall go on to discover continued meaning in life, living and loving."

     Remember, self-care fortifies your long and challenging grief journey, a journey that leaves you profoundly affected and deeply changed. To be self-nurturing is to have the courage to pay attention to your needs.  Above all, self-nurturing is about self-acceptance.  When we recognize that self-care begins with ourselves, we no longer think of those around us as being totally responsible for our well-being.  Healthy self-care forces us to mourn in ways that help us heal, and that is nurturing indeed.

     I also believe that self-nurturing is about celebration, about taking time to enjoy the moment, to find hidden treasures everywhere -in a child's smile, a beautiful sunrise, a flower in bloom, a friend's gentle touch. Grief teaches us the importance of living fully in the present, remembering our past, and embracing our future.

     Walt Whitman wrote, "I celebrate myself."   In caring for yourself "with passion," you are celebrating life as a human being who has been touched by grief and come to recognize that the preciousness of life is a superb opportunity for celebration.




Effective Grief Work Is Never Done Alone

 



 


"Am I Going Crazy?"

              By Kenneth C. Grieve

     I know a hospice worker who makes more than a thousand follow-up calls to grieving people every year to check in with them and see how they're doing. She first calls people one month after their loved one has died. 

     In these initial calls many people tell her that they can't concentrate on anything other than their loss, they have mood changes at the drop of a hat, or their life seems incredibly empty. Some say they are overwhelmed by feelings of anger, guilt, sadness, or loneliness, while others tell her that they are numb and don't really feel anything at all. Some say they feel like sleeping. Some tell her that they cry constantly, while others say they've been unable to shed a single tear. Many describe how they have recurrent dreams about their loved one, and many say that there are even times when they think they hear their loved one's voice.     griefhand

     The hospice worker told me that after people describe their grief experiences, the most common question they ask is, "Am I going crazy?"     

     People have told me the same thing -that they felt they were going crazy during their grief. They were sure they were the only ones who had the thoughts or feelings they were having, so they began to fear they were abnormal. But then they began talking with other people who were grieving and quickly discovered that most of them had or were having the same experiences. They discovered that their feelings were normal.     

     If you ever feel like you're going crazy, one of the best things you can do is to find others who are grieving or who know about grief and tell them what you're experiencing. In all likelihood you'll learn that your "craziness" isn't crazy at all -it's just a very normal part of grief.



    

      THE MOURNER'S CODE

            TEN (10) SELF-COMPASSIONATE PRINCIPLES


Though you should reach out to others as you journey through grief, you should not feelgriefperson obligated to accept the unhelpful responses you may receive from some people.   You are the one who is grieving, and as such, you have certain "rights" no one should try to take away from you. 

The following list is intended both to empower you to heal and to decide how others can and cannot help.  This is not to discourage you from reaching out to others for help, but rather to assist you in distinguishinguseful responses from some hurtful ones.

1.    YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO EXPERIENCE YOUR OWN UNIQUE GRIEF.   No one else will grieve in exactly the same way you do.   When you turn to others for help, don't allow them to tell what you should not be feeling.

2.    YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO TALK ABOUT YOUR GRIEF.   Talking about your grief will help you heal.   Seek out others who will allow you to talk about your grief as much as you want, as often as you want.   If at times you don't feel like talking, you also have the right to be silent.  

3.    YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO FEEL A MULTITUDE OF EMOTIONS.    Confusion, disorientation, fear, guilt and relief are just a few of the emotions you might feel as part of your grief journey.  Others may try to tell you, for example, that feeling angry is wrong.  Don't take these judgmental responses to heart.   Instead, find listeners who will accept your feelings without condition.

4.   YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE TOLERANT OF PHYSICAL AND EMOTIONAL LIMITS.   Your feelings of loss and sadness will probably leave you feeling fatigued.  Respect what your body and mind are telling you.  Get daily rest.  Eat balanced meals.  And don't allow others to push you into doing things you don't feel ready to do.

5.    YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO EXPERIENCE 'GRIEFBURSTS.'    Sometimes, out of nowhere, a powerful surge of grief may overcome you.  This can be frightening, but it is normal and natural.  Find someone who understands and will let you talk it out.

6.    YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO MAKE USE OF RITUAL.    The funeral ritual does more than acknowledge the death of someone loved. It helps provide you with the support of caring people.  More important, the funeral is way for you to mourn.  If others tell you the funeral or other healing rituals such as these are silly or unnecessary, don't listen.

7.    YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO EMBRACE YOUR SPIRITUALITY.    If faith is a part of your life, express it in ways that seem appropriate to you.  Allow yourself to be around people who understand and support your religious beliefs.   If you feel angry at God, find someone to talk with who won't be critical of your feelings of hurt and abandonment.

8.    YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO SEARCH FOR MEANING.   You may find yourself asking,  "Why this way?  Why now?" Some of your questions may have answers, but some may not.  And watch out for the clichéd responses some people may give.   Comments like,  "It was God's will"  or  "Think of what you still have to be thankful"  are not helpful and you do not have to accept them.

9.    YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO TREASURE YOUR MEMORIES.    Memories are one of the best legacies that exist after the death of someone loved.  You will always remember.  Instead of ignoring your memories, find others with whom you can share them.

10.  YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO MOVE TOWARD YOUR GRIEF AND HEAL.    Reconciling your grief will not happen quickly.   Remember, grief is best experienced in "doses."  Be patient and tolerant with yourself and avoid people who are impatient and intolerant with you.  Neither you nor those around you must forget that the death of someone loved changes your life forever.


 




POSTCARD   :   Tojinbo Cliffs


     As recession drives more Japanese to despair, a suicide mecca's self-appointed guardian steps up his watch. Keeping the desperate from going over the edge.

     japan1They come on sunny days, when the sky is bright and clear above the Tonjinbo cliffs along the coast of the Sea of Japan.  Yukio Shige says they don't look at the view. "They don't carry a camera or souvenir gifts," he says.  "They don't have anything. They hang their heads and stare at the ground."     

     For five years, Shige, 65, has approached such people at the cliffs edge with a simple  "Hello"  and a smile. He might ask how they came there and at what inn they were staying. Sometimes after a light touch to the shoulder, Shige says, they burst into tears, and he begins to console them. "You've had a hard time up until now," he says, "haven't you?"     

     The basalt cliffs in Fukui prefecture, north of Kyoto on the western coast of Japan, are well-known site for suicide in a country with one of the highest suicide rates in the world; at 23.8 per 100,000., Japan's rate is significantly higher than that of the U.S., for example where the rate is 11 per 100,000. One in 5 Japanese men and women has seriously considered taking his or her life, according to a recent government survey; each year over the past decade, more than 30,ooo people have killed themselves. And as the economic downturn has pushed rates of unemployment and bankruptcy higher, the number of suicides has risen. From January through April,11,236 people killed themselves, up 4.5% from the same period in 2008. "I think there will be many more suicides this year," says Shige.     

     The retired detective from nearby Fukui City has patrolled the cliffs two or three times a day since 2004, wearing white gloves and a floppy sun hat, carrying binoculars to focus on three spots on the cliffs where suicides are most common. He has set up a nonprofit foundation to aid the work and says he has helped prevent 188 potential suicides. After he's talked them off the cliffs, Shige–a trained counselor–takes them to his small office, where two gas heaters keep a kettle boiling, ready to make the tea that accompanies his counseling sessions. For men, Shige says, the biggest problems are debt and unemployment; most of the women are there because of depression or health issues. "If it's a case of sexual harassment, I'll go with her to the office and confront her boss," says Shige. "If a child has issues with his father, I tell the parent that he is driving his child to suicide and get them to write a promise to change. They hang it on the wall."     

     There's no rush in Shige's office. He offers those who go there oroshi-mochi, a dish of pounded sticky rice served with grated radish. Traditionally the food is prepared to celebrate the New Year, with each family taking its own rice to be mixed with that of its-neighbors. "When people come here and eat mochi, they remember their childhood-father, mother, siblings, hometown. They remember they're not alone," Shige says.     

     So far, Shige has funded his operation, including office rent of $800 a month and occasional support for those trying to get back on their feet, with his retirement savings and donations. But in April, the Japanese government committed to supporting Shige's and similar efforts with about 10 billion yen($100 million) over the next three years. "It's taken five years to get the support," says Shige. "But we also need the kind of policies that keep people from becoming depressed in the first place"-particularly by bolstering the safety net for people with mental disorders and those who have hit hard times.     

     In April, on the fifth anniversary of starting his operation, Shige sat reading a three page, handwritten letter he had received that day from Shizuoka man, one of many he gets from those he has helped. The letter concluded by thanking Shige for providing the man with an awareness of the love that surrounded him. As Shige finished reading, the beautiful melody of "Amazing Grace" rose from his cell phone.  "I want Tojinbo to be the most challenging place,"  he says.  "Not where life ends, but where it begins."        ~  By COCO MASTERS  / June 22, 2009




Surviving Birthdays, Anniversaries and Holidays

      ~  After the Loss of a Loved One  ~   By : Ken Druck, Ph.D. (San Diego CA)

Birthdays, holidays and anniversaries that come after the loss of someone we love hold special meaning for us. Often we approach these special days with apprehension; this would have been her 16th birthday; it's the day he would have graduated; this was the holiday when the family came together; it's the day they celebration-backgroundsdied. To us, these dates are painful reminders that we will never see or speak with our loved one again. That life is going to go on without them, whether or not we like it. Difficult as these special days are, we can survive a significant milestone while taking good care of ourselves.

We need family and friends to be patient as we decide how to spend these days, support our decision, and hold us in gentle arms. In short, we need love and compassion. But what is compassion? Compassion is support of others in doing what is best for them. Self-compassion is when we take care of ourselves; planning these special days with ease and simplicity, remembering that we can express our love for those we have lost, while being kind to ourselves.

After the tenth anniversary of my daughter's death, I know that some birthdays and anniversaries are worse than others. I've learned what to keep simple and not to overdue it. I've learned that experiencing dread, as your loved one's birthday, anniversary or a special holiday approaches, is understandable and there are some things you can do to help make it through the day.

First you could choose to do nothing. We all want to remember and honor our loved ones, but for some of us the pain is too unbearable, the day too difficult. We just want to get through the day's sorrow. Each one of us grieves differently and if this is the option you choose, embrace it without guilt. You are remembering self compassion.

For those of you who wish to approach the special day with something specific planned, here are a few suggestions for the days leading up to and immediately following the birthday, anniversary or special holiday.

THE DAYS BEFORE . . .

Use the days before to make plans that reduce the pressure and anxiety that can build up before the special day. The main thing is to set your own limits and to take care of yourself. Plan what you want to do on the special day. Set realistic and reasonable expectations for the day. Remember, self-compassion throughout this day is your number one priority. Do things that allow you to relax. Lighten your load in the days leading up to the special day. You need all your strength and to be well rested.

Get the emotional support you need from family, friends, counselor, clergy, or grief support group. Give yourself permission to talk about your loved one. Let family and friends know that you may speak of your loved one more on this day and ask for their patience and understanding.

Don't allow tensions, anxieties and fears to build up inside of you so you set yourself up for a meltdown on the special day. Take whatever steps you need to help you get through the day without judging yourself or comparing yourself to others.

Remember, children often experience these special days differently. You may need to schedule a different activity for them on that day (i.e. play date with friends, watching their favorite movie). The day will be difficult for them as well but an activity independent of you may be what they need.

THE DAY OF . . .

Do what is most meaningful to you, Balance your needs with those of your family's. Accommodate others when possible but not at the expense of your own health and sanity. Be gentle with yourself. Grief is an exercise in self-compassion, not a performance for the benefit or approval of others. Skip things that are not going to help you(physically, mentally or spiritually). Surround yourself with loving, nurturing people.

Protect yourself from unwanted phone calls and visitors. Appoint a spokesperson, screen phone calls and visitors, make a recording on your answering machine or send out an e-mail announcement instructing them on how to contact or visit you.

Allow yourself to be sad, angry, quiet, confused-whatever you are feeling is understandable and acceptable. Allow yourself to feel the love you have for your loved one -and theirs for you. Remain open to unexpected "gifts" (the kindness of a stranger, an unexplainable feeling of peace that comes over you) "set backs" (i.e. things don't turn out as planned).

Come up for air often. Arrange a time with a friend, counselor, or supporter to "check-in" and get grounded. Allow yourself ample time to rest and decompress at the end of the day.

THE DAYS AFTER . . .

Talk about what happened on the special day with people you trust. A good "debriefing" is one in which you relax and recount the wonderful and challenging moments of the day with trusted family and friends. Remember, fond memories will keep your loved ones with you.

Realize that there may be a "letdown" period in which you feel relieved or sad now that it's all over. Allow yourself to feel whatever feelings come up. Be forgiving of how the special day went. This is not a time to judge yourself harshly. Congratulate yourself for having survived the day

Thank your family and friends for supporting you during this special day. Let them know how much their support meant to you. Make a gentle transition back into your everyday life. Arrange a light activity schedule that allows you time to rest and recover. Continue with a schedule of pampering to help you regain your strength and peace.

Surviving a birthday, anniversary or holiday is difficult. The key to survival is by being self-compassionate. Nothing more. Nothing less. Take a deep breath. The best way to get through this day is by doing what is right for you. Remember, surviving the special day is but one step in the process of grief. Healing is forever and this is only one day in your journey.




 BULLYING A CAUSE OF SUICIDE,  NOT A RITE OF PASSAGE

                   By Donald W. Meyers  :  The Salt Lake Tribune

PROVO - When John Halligan's son Ryan committed suicide six years ago at the age of 13, he and his wife tore the house apart looking for the suicide note that would explain why he did it. They didn't find one. But when Halligan, then an engineer with IBM in Vermont, logged onto his son's instant messaging account, he found the answer he was looking for:  Ryan Halligan was a victim of cyberbullying. 

FIST-websmallHalligan was the keynote speaker at the 10th Annual Suicide Prevention Conference at Brigham Young University on Friday. The conference was conducted by the Utah County HOPE Task Force, a coalition of community groups focused on preventing suicide, and attracted educators, social workers and students.

Greg Hudnall, HOPE's executive director, said the group this year is attempting to get at the root causes of teen suicide, including bullying in its many forms. "People don't realize the impact of bullying," he said.

Barbara Blotter, student services director at Nebo School District, said students who know a friend is being bullied can let counselors or parents know, especially if the friend threatens suicide. Because some signs of suicidal behavior --depression, drastic changes in behavior, falling grades, feelings of loneliness, extreme sensitivity, impulsive behavior or drug and alcohol abuse --can be mistaken for teen angst, Blotter said the key is erring on the side of caution.

"One of the things we do as counselors, if we have a question [about whether a student is suicidal], we don't let them leave until we notify their parents and let them know," Blotter said in an interview.

Cyberbullying makes school administrators' jobs more difficult, Blotter said. The problem: The bullying takes place on home computers outside school -- and outside a principal's jurisdiction. Blotter said the school can intervene if the online bullying disrupts school life.

Halligan said bullying was a major factor in his son's suicide.

A bully and his friends targeted Ryan, who had problems with learning and physical coordination, in fifth grade. The taunting became so bad that in seventh grade, Ryan asked his parents to take him out of school. He said talking to the principal would only make matters worse, since he would be labeled a "tattletale."

Instead, Halligan and his son turned to one of their favorite movies, "The Karate Kid," about a bullied teen who develops self-confidence and defeats his tormentor through the discipline of martial arts. But Ryan chose kick-boxing instead of karate, and he and his father practiced in the basement.

Ryan had a showdown with his oppressor, and he thought the bullying was over. Near the end of the school year, he said he had befriended the bully, which Halligan now believes was a mistake.

That summer, he said Ryan spent most of his time on the computer. After Ryan's suicide, Halligan learned from Ryan's friends online and through chat logs that Ryan was the target of a rumor that he was gay, a rumor spread by the bully who was supposedly now his friend.

In an attempt to quash the rumor, Ryan began corresponding online with a popular girl at school. But when he approached her in the hallway, she called him a loser. Her online interest, it turned out, was part of the bullying.

That was the day before Ryan ended his life.

Halligan tried to press charges against the bully, but learned that bullying was not illegal in Vermont. So, he lobbied for an anti-bullying law, which defines bullying, requires schools to adopt anti-bullying policies and to report bullying.

Utah enacted its own anti-bullying law in 2008. House Bill 325, sponsored by Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Holladay, requires school districts to create anti-bullying and hazing policies.

Halligan eventually confronted the boy and his parents, when the bully broke down and tearfully asked forgiveness. Halligan's one regret was not speaking with them earlier, when the bullying started.

He said it's important that kids realize there is nothing that justifies suicide and the pain it inflicts on a family. "You are loved beyond belief," Halligan said. "Trust me on this one."

HOW UTAH RANKS  :   -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -

Utah ranks 15th overall nationally for suicides committed by youths and young adults between the ages of 14 and 24, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That's down from a ranking of sixth 10 years ago. An average of 307 Utahns of all ages commit suicide every year, according to Utah Department of Health statistics.



 

ALASKA RECEIVES

$500,000 PER YEAR FOR SUICIDE PREVENTION

(Source : Department of Health and Social Services - Feb. 2009)

(Juneau, AK)  - Alaska's Division of Behavioral Health today marked a significant contribution to the state'salaska-map efforts to prevent youth suicide: a $1.5 million, three-year grant from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

     "This will help Alaska deploy established youth suicide prevention and early intervention strategies," said SAMHSA Acting Administrator Eric Broderick at a check presentation event at Juneau Douglas High School. Each year, he said, suicide claims more children and young adults than cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, and chronic lung diseases combined.    

     In Alaska, the statistics are even more troubling: Youth age 15-24 committed suicide at three times the national average in 2005 - nearly 30 deaths per 100,000 people.

     "The suicide rate among our young people is unacceptable," said Melissa Witzler Stone, Behavioral Health director, Department of Health and Social Services.  "This grant will strengthen prevention networks in regions where young people face the highest risk."

     Ron King, a Juneau resident who lost his son to suicide, said it is possible for communities to create a culture of prevention. "Since Corey's death in 1993, the community has turned 180 degrees in direction by promoting awareness, supporting education and taking an active role with early assessment,"  King said.  "For this, I am grateful."

     The state is training Regional Suicide Prevention Teams that can identify community sources of stress and of strength for local youth.

     "After falling over 28 percent between 1990 and 2003, youth suicide rates climbed 8 percent in 2004, the largest single one-year rise in 15 years," said U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who also spoke.  "Youth suicides are even more challenging in rural and isolated areas where youth have limited access to behavioral health services."  The SAMHSA grant will enable states, Indian tribes, colleges and universities to develop suicide prevention and intervention programs that are critically needed, especially in Alaska's small communities that lack the necessary resources to address youth suicides, Murkowski added.

     Alaska will target youth ages 14-24 with the grant, said L. Diane Casto, manager of Prevention and Early Intervention Services for Behavioral Health. Efforts will target groups most at risk, including young Native men in rural Alaska; gay, lesbian and transgender youth; young veterans; and youth in foster care.

     "To succeed, we will need broad collaboration with our partners," Casto said, such as Kawerak in Nome and Maniilaq in Kotzebue, regional health and social service agencies that also received Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act grants from SAMHSA.

     Other division partners include school districts, the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, the Statewide Suicide Prevention Council, the state Division of Public Health, the Advisory Board on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, the Alaska Mental Health Board, the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority and others.



Army-BootsMilitary Suicides  :  The Battleground Within

More American soldiers may have committed suicide in Iraq and Afghanistan last month than were killed in combat.

In a surprising but needed show of transparency, the Army has disclosed there were seven confirmed and 17 suspected suicides in January. That compares with 16 combat deaths last month. The 24 suicides are four times the number in January 2008;  there were six in January 2007,  and 10 that month in 2006.

The Army rarely releases a month-by-month update on suicides, but officials were so concerned that they went public with the numbers and briefed Congress. That drastic change is welcome. You can't attack the problem with a coverup.         

An annual report released last month found that 128 soldiers at various duty stations had killed themselves in 2008, the highest yearly number on record. Additional deaths are being investigated as suspected suicides.     

The deaths were spread fairly evenly among soldiers stateside and overseas. Thirty-seven committed suicide while deployed; 50 after their return; 44 were not deployed.      

Suicides were also up in the Marine Corps, which reported that 41 Marines, including six serving in Iraq, committed suicide in 2008, the highest rate since 1995.      

Soldiers are under great stress from repeated and extended tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some have problems related to jobs at home, and legal and financial issues.      The military recognizes what is happening, but needs to beef up its plan to address the problem with more mental-health counselors.     

The Army is also instituting special month-long training sessions to help soldiers recognize suicidal behaviors and intervene if they see those signs in a comrade.     

Besides the "stand-down" to facilitate training, the Army is planning a suicide-prevention program for all soldiers, from the top of the chain of command down to the rank and file.     

Those are steps in the right direction, but the Army cannot stop there. It must shed the entrenched macho culture that discourages soldiers from seeking help. More mental-health screenings are also needed, as well as more support services for military families.     

Simply by disclosing the alarming suicide trend, the Army has opened the door for more soldiers to seek and receive the help they need to defeat the enemy inside.




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